Kansas City on Film: A Guide to Our City’s Appearances in Film and Television – KCUR | Episode Movies

The oldest existing motion picture is a two-second scene shot in England in 1888. Less than a decade later, in 1897, George Curtiss captured the hustle and bustle on the streets of Kansas City and made what may have been the first motion picture in the Midwest. Some of Curtiss’ films can be seen on the Kansas City Google Arts and Culture page, courtesy of the Kansas City Museum.

Since then, Kansas City has featured in cinema, television, and short films as both a backdrop and a star. The streets and skyline balance the big city vibe, close to suburbs and rural settings, with a steady cast of talented actors.

During his presentation on Cinema and Kansas City for the Kansas City Public Library, UMKC Professor Mitch Brian highlighted some of the important films that were filmed here in KC. The Kansas City Film Office also has a comprehensive list of works that were filmed in the Kansas City area.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at some of these iconic cinema sets.

Lighting! Camera! cow town!

Liby Hansen


KCUR 89.3

The Boone Theater at 1701 E. 18th Street still has a film facade left over from the shooting of Robert Altman’s Kansas City.

Director Robert Altman made his directorial debut here in Kansas City “The delinquents‘, a cautionary tale from 1957. Most of the cast were local actors, and the scenes are set in Loose Park Rose Garden and the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department.

Bonus: You can see Kansas City legend Julia Lee & Her Boyfriends in the opening scene. Learn more about Lee in A People’s History of Kansas City.

Almost 40 years later, Altman returned to Kansas City to film, well, “Kansas City.” Set in 1934, this thriller is a lackluster portrayal of the jazz age riddled with crime, violence and political corruption. The scenes take place across the city, including Union Station (which was badly derelict by the time), as well as the 18th and Vine Districts. Many of the buildings were given film facades and neon awnings to recreate the 24-hour nightlife of the era.

In 2011, KCUR’s Laura Spencer, with one of the film’s set designers, visited the area where many facades were still visible and awaiting development in the neighborhood. A film facade can still be seen at the Boone Theater at 1701 E. 18th Street.

Charlie Parker, one of Kansas City’s most famous sons, is the focus of the 1988 film “Bird‘, starring Forest Whitaker and directed by Clint Eastwood, with several scenes filmed in Kansas City.

The 1990 film “Mr and Mrs Bridge‘, starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, shows another spectrum of racial differences in Kansas City. It is set in the 1930s and 1940s in the suffocating social life around Country Club Plaza.

The film is based on the books by Evan S. Connell, who grew up in Kansas City and based his mother’s character on Mrs. Bridge. Many landmarks remain, including the Country Club Plaza, Drexel Hall, the Liberty Memorial, and the interior of the Midland Theater. (You’ll also visit the First National Bank vault, now converted into a movie theater by the Kansas City Public Library.)

If drama isn’t your thing, settle into some sweet romance. The Movie “Life”my sweet vacation‘ was filmed at Annedore’s Fine Chocolates at State Line Road and 50th Street in Westwood, Kansas and in the lobby of the historic Muehlebach Hotel at Baltimore Avenue and 12th Street. Filmmaker Isaac Alongi and Writer/Director Sandra Martin talk about making a summer 2020 Christmas movie with KC Media Collective’s Flatland.

KC series

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The Netflix reboot of Queer Eye filmed its third and fourth seasons in Kansas City, with the Fab Five helping the Kansas Citians zhuzh their looks, lives and businesses.

On the small screen, Kansas City and the surrounding area sometimes serve as a show location, although these are usually filmed in Los Angeles or a similar location.

So how can you see a more “authentic” KC on screen? reality television.

The Netflix reboot of “strange eye‘ filmed its third and fourth seasons in Kansas City. The Fab Five traveled all over the area helping Kansas Citians zhuzh their looks, their lives and their businesses. During filming, they lived in a loft at 2001 Grand Blvd., the old Firestone building in the Crossroads Arts District that now bears the iconic Abdiana sign.

Visit KC offers self-guided Queer Eye tours promoting the local businesses and organizations featured in each episode, including the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and Johnny Hammil’s Bass Studio.

A new television show has been filming in the city since last summer. “The gentle art of the Swedish death cleansing‘, based on the book by Margareta Magnusson, helps the Kansas Citians shed unwanted physical and emotional baggage in what is sure to be an inspirational series. KCUR reported the shooting announcement in July 2022.

But reality TV isn’t just about makeovers and inner strength—sometimes it’s also about outer strength. In 2015 and 2017 “American ninja warrior‘ set up his obstacle course right in front of Union Station.

In a way a reversal, the new TV show “Bel Air‘ is set in Los Angeles but represents a diverse array of talent from Kansas City. The show is directed by Kansas City native Morgan Cooper, who brought in a significant number of Kansas City crew to help with behind-the-scenes production, including the artwork and costumes featured on the show.

Straight to the music video

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Courtesy of Megan Mantia


Released in 2022, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs filmed “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” in the Power & Light District, a defunct punk club, and on the county roads north of town.

With the Irish band U2 came to play Arrowhead Stadium in 1997, they decided Kansas City was the perfect location for a music video. They shot the dystopian Last Night on Earth on the Jay B. Dillingham Freeway and a desolate downtown that shut down the city for a few hours.

Released in 2022, the Yes Yes Yes Spitting Off the Edge of the World was filmed in the Power & Light District, a defunct punk club, and on the county roads north of town. KCUR reported how two Kansas City Art Institute graduates met the band and brought them here.

rapper Tech N9ne boasts KC’s famous Gates Bar-BQ in “OG,” an ode to Ollie Gates and this Kansas City institution. Not only is part of the video shot in a Gates restaurant, but an animated “Struttin’ Man” almost dances off the tray.

For local groups, it just makes sense to take advantage of the city’s backdrop. in 2020, The black creatures filmed their “Wretched (It Goes)” music video in front of City Hall, the Robert Grahams Bird Lives statue and up and down the main streets and back streets of Kansas City.

Theater redesigned

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Missouri Valley special collections


Kansas City Public Library

Kansas City is home to one of the largest remaining Film Row Districts in the country. Along 18th Street between Baltimore and Broadway, most of these old buildings still stand and are now an integral part of the Crossroads Arts District.

A significant part of Kansas City’s film history takes place in the theaters. Only a handful of old movie theaters remain in Kansas City, but the remaining ones have either been renovated or have plans to do so.

In the 18th and Weinviertel, Boone Theater at 1701 E. 18th Street is slated for renovation to house the Black Movie Hall of Fame, who named their inductees this year. Built in 1924 and renamed in honor of piano virtuoso John W. “Blind” Boone, the theater is also a stop on the African-American Heritage Trail. Hopefully the building will be open to the public again in 2023.

It’s just around the block Gem Theater, originally a silent film palace that has long been a performing arts venue. All that is left of the Eblon TheaterBuilt in 1922 as a “venue for vaudeville and motion pictures,” is the facade of the building that was also adapted for Altman’s film.

Kansas City is home to one of the largest remaining districts of the film series in the country. From the 1920s through the 1960s, major production studios had distribution houses in cities around the world.

Along 18th Street between Baltimore and Broadway, most of these old buildings still stand and are now an integral part of the Crossroads Arts District. In front of the Film Row Professional Building at 215 W. 18th St., the Kansas City Walk of Stars includes plaques to Jean Harlow, Ginger Rogers, Robert Altman, Joan Crawford, and Walt Disney.

Speaking of Disney, he and his friend Ub Iwerks started it Laugh-O-Gram Studios in 1921 on the second floor of 1127 E. 31st St. The company only existed for a few years, but Disney & Co.’s ultimate influence is undeniable. Organizers with thanks, Walt Disney, are currently raising funds to restore the building and create a museum dedicated to preserving the legacy of Laugh-O-Gram Studios. Listen to A People’s History of Kansas City to learn more about this piece of Kansas City film history.

Although many of the remaining theaters have been converted into office or event spaces, some have remained true to their on-screen origins, such as Screenland armor in northern Kansas City. The Rio at Overland Park was closed during the pandemic, but as of August 2022, its owners were still hoping to eventually reopen.

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